Nepal on the World Stage: A Journey Through Milestones

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Talking about something is easy, but getting someone to listen and respond is challenging. This applies to both personal and international communication. Countries interact with each other, and some excel at making others listen, while some struggle to draw attention.

Analyzing Nepal’s international engagement in prestigious summits and global meetings throughout the year, it’s evident that the country achieved significant milestones in its global standing. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ began his third term on December 26, 2022. As the Prachanda government completes its first year, it stands as a highly successful period marked by notable diplomatic achievements for Nepal.

  Guterres visit

At the invitation of Prime Minister Prachanda, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had a four-day official visit to Nepal starting from October 29, 2023. During his official trip, the UNSG visited Mt. Everest Base Camp and Mt. Annapurna Base Camp to highlight the consequences of climate crisis on the Himalayas, and Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, for the message of peace and compassion. In addition to meetings in Kathmandu, he also visited Pokhara, a beautiful tourist destination in the country.

‘Today from the base of Mt Everest, I saw for myself the terrible impact of the climate crisis on the Himalayas.’ As temperatures rise, glacier melt increases – threatening the lives and livelihoods of entire communities. ‘#Climate Action can’t wait.’ Guterres wrote on X (twitter), on October 30.

On October 31, Secretary-General Guterres lauded Nepal as a leading example of Climate Action and called on the international community for full solidarity with Nepal, which is responding to issues raised by Nepal. “I want to express my deep gratitude for the wonderful hospitality I enjoyed from the government & people of Nepal.” As a leading example of #ClimateAction & the second largest contribution to @UNPeacekeeping, Nepal deserves the full solidarity of the international community, Guterres wrote on X.

For Nepal, Guterres’ visit was itself an important event as the country attracted global attention. More important was the way the Secretary General lobbied for Nepal with regard to issues related to climate change and its terrible impact on Nepal, a Himalayan country. The visit was no less important in terms of Nepal’s global publicity for the promotion of tourism. Moreover, the way Guterres showed interest in the remaining tasks of Nepal’s peace process, especially transitional justice issues, and urged the political leaders to come together to settle them, also supported Nepal’s organic peace process and the Prachanda government’s efforts for completing the remaining peace process tasks by means of the truth and reconciliation commission and the commission on the disappeared person.

By hosting the official visit of the chief of the global body and garnering his support for Nepal’s climate change issues, the Prachanda government added a milestone in Nepal’s global status. It is to be noted here that the UN Secretary-General’s Nepal visit took place just before a month of the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 28) held in Dubai, the UAE, on 30 November-12 December 2023.

COP 28

One of the most important outcomes of COP 28 for Nepal has been the acceptance of Himalayan or mountain issues with regard to climate change. Home to most of the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, Nepal also houses eight out of the 14 highest peaks above 800 metres. Mountain issues have been mentioned in five different places in the key final document adopted by COP 28, the ‘global stocktake,’ an assessment of progress since the 2015 Paris Agreement. In points 55 and 56 under the Adaption section, the document mentions about mountains.

As the lead UN agency on mountain issues, FAO has termed COP 28 as ‘A historic COP for mountains.’ The UN agency has also credited Nepal’s role in ‘mountains’ for prominent inclusion in the first global stocktake’, particularly mentioning the roundtable titled “Call of the mountains: who saves us from the climate crisis?” hosted by the Prime Minister Prachanda on December 2. The round table was attended by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, Prime Minister of Andorra Xavier Espot Zamora, and Kyrgyzstan Foreign Affairs Minister Jeenbek Kulubayev, among other high-level delegates.

The outcomes of the global climate summit, COP 28, should be seen in the light of the efforts Nepal made as a mountainous country, the way the Prachanda government hosted UNSG’s visit and the issues it raised all along in the run up to the summit. Whether during his visit to Italy to participate in the United Nations Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2) in July or in his address to the UN General Assembly in September, PM Prachanda kept raising issues of protection of mountains and that Nepal “suffers unfairly” from climate crisis.

In his address to COP 28, PM Prachanda made it a point that Nepal was suffering from climate injustice as Nepal is bearing a direct, disproportionate, and damaging effect of climate change despite near zero contribution to global emissions. Calling upon the developed countries to fulfill their pledges, PM Prachanda said, “The loss and damage Fund must be predictable, simplified, and adequate for LDCs and mountainous countries.”

If we see point 75 with the topic of finance, under the heading of Means of Adaptation and Support, of the document, we can find that Nepal was listened to in COP 28. The document emphasises the ongoing challenges faced by many developing country Parties in accessing climate finance and encourages further efforts, including by the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism, to simplify access to such finance, in particular for those developing country Parties that have significant capacity constraints, such as the least developed countries and small island developing States.

Agreement with India

Although PM Prachanda’s visit to India in May this year was marred with murrah buffalo bulls in Nepal, particularly in the parliament as the main opposition CPN (UML) tried to belittle the visit as something without concrete outcomes, the agreement about increasing power trade by 10,000 MW a year within a decade was a good achievement for Nepal. Even the materialization of the gift of the murrah buffalo bulls was no less important as Nepal had long ago made such an appeal to India. During the visit, seven agreements and MoUs were signed between the two neighbours while six projects funded by India in Nepal were inaugurated. The visit remained important also because India agreed to provide a route for Nepal to export power to Bangladesh.

Power Trade Pact

During the UNFSS+2 summit in Italy in July, PM Prachanda held a meeting with Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wazed. It is understandable that the meeting was focused on materializing the power trade between Nepal and Bangladesh, in the light that Bangladesh has been showing its interest to purchase power from Nepal and that India has agreed to provide the route through its territory. There has been a lot of talk about Nepal exporting power to Bangladesh, but the talk is yet to be translated into action. The way he talked with Indian PM Narendra Modi and held discussions with Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina, PM Prachanda seemed focused on materialising a trilateral pact on power trade so that Nepal can export power to Bangladesh through the Indian route. It is hoped that PM Prachanda’s personal political approach and efforts for this will soon bear a concrete fruit diplomatically and economically. It should be noted here that a good political understanding plays a key role in many economic cooperations.

BRI project with China

One of the most important agreements reached between Nepal and China during PM Prachanda’s visit to the northern neighbour in September is the agreement to finalise the investment modalities for the BRI projects in Nepal. Although Nepal signed the BRI framework with China in 2017, no official BRI projects have been implemented in Nepal. It is a fact that Nepal needs foreign financial assistance, be it loan or grant, for its development. And it is an irony that Nepal is yet to implement a single BRI project with Chinese investment even after six years of the signing of the agreement. Many countries have benefited from BRI projects, but Nepal, despite being adjacent to China, the second largest economy, has lagged in attracting any BRI projects. In this light, it is an outcome of the visit that soon Nepal and China will decide on the modality of investment for BRI projects in Nepal, that is, of the projects agreed to be implemented under the BRI, agreement will be made as to which projects will be implemented with Chinese grant, which with loan and which with loan and grant combined.

Source- Rising Nepal – Nanda Lal Tiwari